More information on MLB’s plans to adapt to stopping the coronavirus

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Last night we checked out the latest talks between MLB and MLBPA regarding the many complex issues presented by the coronavirus game stoppage. While it looks like players will be sure to record full service time if the season is played, there is much more to be done.
Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.com provide an update on the latest plans, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote a column with additional updates. Unfortunately, the overriding concern – the ability to organize games safely – remains entirely subject to the unknown whims of the future.

The goal is to shoehorn in as many games as possible once it becomes possible. For the moment, it seems that the most optimistic result would be a resumption of the game in June, with July probably more likely. This will determine the number of contests that can be organized.

To maximize the number of games, the plan appears to require many double heads and perhaps even a second accelerated spring training. An active extension of the list would be offered to help allay concerns about overworked pitching. The post-season would be postponed in autumn, even in winter, on neutral sites. As Sherman points out, the league is concerned about television rights when major networks broadcast key games in other sports (for example, NFL coverage on Sunday).

It’s not just the teams and the league that push to do as much as possible. For the most part, all parties participate together. MLB’s most powerful agent Scott Boras still thinks a full season is plausible, as reported by Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Even a mid-summer start would allow a regular season of 144 or even 162 games and a full playoff list, says Boras – if the end was played on neutral sites until the end of December.

The talks also touch on several other issues, some of which are more concrete. The MLB has pledged to advance $ 150 million in payables to distribute to the list of 40 men. It is also envisaged to issue payments to minor leaguers at a level close to their normal salary for at least a certain period.

As long as there is a season to play, it goes without saying that most problems will be resolved as long as there is enough good will between the teams. But even that will require some adjustment; as Passan and McDaniel note, the arbitration system is one of many areas that will need to be temporarily changed.

The draft is also a hot button problem. The two sides appear to have discussed a wide range of scenarios. Sherman writes that the event could be postponed or shortened, with signing bonuses paid over a longer period rather than as an upfront lump sum. Craig Mish of SportsGrid suggests (via Twitter) that shortening the event – perhaps as little as 10 rounds – might be most likely.

But the real problem lies beyond: what if there is no 2020 season? This would reveal a host of thorny questions. MLB and MLBPA negotiators have clearly been less successful in agreeing on how to respond to such a radical development. They have tabled these talks so far, hoping, along with the rest of us, that processing this outcome is unnecessary.



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